Murray powers Cowboys playoff push

Tim Heitman/US Presswire

DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in yards after contact per rush, which has helped the Cowboys win three of his four starts.

Since Felix Jones’s injury in Week 6 against the New England Patriots, DeMarco Murray has emerged as the star of the Dallas Cowboys’ running game.

While the Cowboys expect Jones to return Sunday, Murray will remain the team’s primary back. Murray has forced his way into the debate for the NFL’s top offensive rookie, as debated in today’s ESPN Dallas Hot Button.

Murray has averaged 150 yards per game since his Week 7 start against the St. Louis Rams. In his first NFL start, Murray’s 253 yards broke Dallas’s single-game rushing record of 237 yards, set by Emmitt Smith in 1993.

DeMarco Murray Rushing
Between the Tackles Since Week 7

The 227-pound Murray has been more effective than his smaller teammate Jones at rushing inside the tackles. Jones averaged 4.4 yards per carry between the tackles. Murray has averaged 9.0 yards per carry since he took over as starter.

Murray’s 6.7 yards per rush is the most among running backs with at least 50 rushes this season. He is on pace to record the highest single-season average by any rookie with at least 100 rushes since the merger in 1970.

Yards After Contact per Rush
2011 Season

Much of Murray’s success comes from his ability to fight for tough yards. Murray’s averages 3.0 yards after contact per rush, an upgrade for the Cowboys compared to 2.3 yards after contact Jones averaged.

The rookie has also been one of the most explosive players in the league this year. In Murray’s four starts, he has seven rushes of at least 20 yards. Only Darren McFadden (14.1) has had fewer attempts per 20+ yard rush among running backs this season than Murray (14.3).